On October 4, 2014, “A Date with the Duke,” a play written and produced by South Florida’s entertainment vanguard icon, Jo Marie Payton, took us on a tour, with the Duke himself, played by the noted Tommy O’Brien, to sample some of the best music ever made in America, through several of the Duke’s musical collaborators, including Adelaide Hall, who recorded Sophisticated Lady in 1932, and Bubber Miley, and Willie (the Lion) Smith, part of the Duke Ellington’s remarkable, Cotton Club and beyond, legacy.
Fortunately for South Florida, there are souls among us who contribute to our delight by tapping into budding talents and creating a path for them to grow on. Such is the case with Miss Jo’s Boot Camp. The renowned actress and singer, Jo Marie Payton, in partnership with Florida Technical College, where the play opened, Subbora Jackson, Technical Director, Ruth Paul, Production Manager, and the wonderful ball gowns of Bella Fashions with Nora Marvilli, created a spark of magic with a well versed, edutaining, historical fiction, musical play.
“This is just a beginning,” proclaimed Ms. Payton during the finale’s acknowledgements, as we remained in our seats wanting more. More, yes, more of that wonderful music and cast who gives us hope for a future “Date with the Duke.” Next time, I hope to see him on a raised stage, with the factual names of the Lady Singers and other characters, projected on the power point backdrop as they enter the stage. The wonderful boys, so important to have them there, will have gotten over their initial stage fright by then, and the girls will be even more possessed by the swoons and syncopated beats of jazz. The very talented Paquito Besado, Jaquita Timmons, Rose Sulfin, Rachel Marvilli, Alina Isengildina, and Yessenia Cossio will shine even more. I can’t wait to travel in time through the magical book opened on the lap of Little girl #1 (I hope she will be named Cameron) who just got a new book from her grandma. As she shares it with her friend in the parlor, after dinner, the Duke comes alive! Oh my! What a great surprise! And then he invites others to come! But where does that leave John Wayne, and other characters who first appeared mistakenly named Duke? Interestingly, they could be next.
I’ll say, it was a time well spent.